First let me explain that the reason I've been maniacally posting all weekend is NOT because I don't have a life, it's because I have a cold and feel too lousy to go out and too feverish to concentrate on reading or writing or DVDs for more than half an hour at a time, so I'm bored.

Also my agent has my memoir and I can't do anything with it till I get his notes, and I'm way too reely-headed to think much about my next project, and the two books from Green Man that I should have reviewed a month ago remain unfinished because about once I week I pick them up, read three pages, and think of something better to do. Like dusting my cats. When I finally do force myself to finish them, the reviews will be undoubtedly be pure snark, and Mia and Grey will be amused even if the authors won't.

Anyway, while making a more-than-usually desultory attempt to cull books so I can fit all the ones I own into the bookcases with none double-stacked or scattered about handy flat surfaces, I noticed that I have a number of books whose authors only seem to have written one or two, then vanished forever. But what they wrote was choice. I think all of these are out of print, which happens when you only write one book. In some cases the book was so polished and assured that I am baffled that the author was apparently never heard from again. Presumably it didn't sell well, but still...

FLYING IN PLACE, by Susan Palwick

I am a sucker for books about abused children triumphing over their horrid circumstances, but even allowing for my bias in favor of the subject matter, this is an awfully well-written book. Emma is a bright girl whose doctor father is abusing her, and whose English teacher mother uses literature to keep unpleasant realities at bay. When Emma starts to think she can't take it any more, she gets visited by the ghost of her older sister, who died before Emma was born. Ginny knows the family secrets. Ginny can teach Emma to leave her body and fly. But Ginny has secrets of her own. Unsentimental but heart-felt, and with the page-turning qualities of a thriller.

Palwick has published a few short stories since her first novel, all well-written but less noteworthy, but her second novel has been forthcoming for more than ten years. I'd be very curious to know if she got a WONDER BOYS-worthy case of second novel trouble, or if she delivered something the publishers deemed uncommercial.

SWAN'S WING, by Ursula Synge

This is one of two novel-length re-tellings that I know of which concern the fate of the seventh swan-brother, the one whose coat of nettles had one sleeve unfinished and whose left arm remained a swan's wing when the rest of him was restored to human form. The other is by Nicholas Stuart Gray, but I prefer Synge's version. It has all the flavor of the original fairy-tale, of innocent girls and tormented young men facing cruel and poetic fates, with sexual undercurrents reminiscent of, oh, everyone who's retelling fairy-tales now, but it startled me when I read this one. The ending is notably uncompromising.

I think this is Synge's only novel.

THE FORTUNATE FALL, by Raphael Carter

I can't believe this book is out of print. I think it's the best sf novel to be published in the last fifteen years. The protagonist, Maya, is a camera: a journalist whose audience plugs in to experience what she experiences, sound, touch, mental associations, and all.

"I will not let you explore the twining pathways of my thoughts as I explore them-- not again. I will hide instead behind this wall of words, and I will conceal what I choose to conceal. I will tell you the story in order, as you'd tell a story to a stranger who knows nothing of it: for you are not my friend, and what you know is far less than you think you know. You will read my life in phosphors on a screen, or glowing letters scrolling up the inside of your eye. And when you reach the end, you will lie down again in your indifferent dark apartment, with the neon splashing watercolor blues across your face, and you will know a little less about me than you did before."

This is not just good writer. This is sell your soul to the Devil writing. If all Carter had going as a writer was that stunning prose, it would be enough. Add in rich characterization, intriguing sfnal extrapolation, and serious moral themes, and you get one astounding novel. Beg or borrow, but if you steal this book you'll be tracked down and slain by its enraged owner, and then you'll go to Hell.

Carter has written one short story, "The Congenital Agenesis of gender Ideation," which is thought-provoking and also rather funny. That's it. I asked a couple people who know Carter what's going on and if another novel is being worked on, and all they say is that Carter is a very private person and they don't know.


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